South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State Contractor May Be Liable for Negligence Despite State Acceptance of Work
Description South Carolina high court held that a highway contractor may be held liable for negligence in work that is found to contribute to an accident, even if the work had been accepted by the state as complete. The contractor has a duty of care to highway users.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; State Contractor; Highway
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Dorrell was injured when her car dropped off the paved highway lane on to the dirt shoulder, which was a foot below the lane. She lost control, the car rolled, and she suffered serious injuries. She sued the South Carolina Department of Transportation (DoT) and APAC, the paving company that did the work, for negligence. DoT had accepted APAC's work as complete shortly before the accident. The trial court dismissed APAC from the suit. Dorrell appealed.

Reversed and remanded. A contractor's duty of care is not extinguished upon the completion and acceptance of the work. This rule has been adopted by a majority of states. Furthermore, the contract with DoT specifically required APAC to take action necessary to protect the safety of the traveling public. APAC had a duty of care to highway users that was independent of its contract with the state.

Citation Dorrell v. South Carolina Dept. of Transportation, --- S.E.2d --- (2004 WL 2157960, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2004)

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